Sticking It Out
Originally written on June 20, 2008
by Pat Nogoy SJ
(Part of our scholasticate formation is delivering a sharing/homily in community masses. In Dagani House, where I am assigned to, a particular scholastic is assigned to deliver his sharing every Saturday of the month.)
This feast of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, the readings of today, and 28th wedding anniversary of my Mom and Dad have a common theme: fidelity amidst the worry. Though it may appear simple and for some of us probably trivial, reflecting about the theme in the context of my experience reveals a tough invitation.
Worrying is real. It is tough not to worry. We actually had a communal taste of it in the context of managing our budget for the month. Personally, when things do not appear to fall into their proper places, I cannot help but worry—worry about the effects, level of impact, dreaded failures they might bring. I grew up struggling with this and perhaps Aloysius Gonzaga, the Scriptures, and my parents would like to impart to me a grace that I need to reflect over and even beg for.
Aloysius Gonzaga was not your typical Jesuit. Actually, if Ignatius were to be strict in his admission, Aloysius Gonzaga should not have been accepted on the account of his health. Health is a serious consideration in being accepted in the Society because of the Institute’s apostolic nature and its emphasis on mission. Aloysius Gonzaga would not live long enough to be ordained as a priest. At the age of eight, he already fell ill with a disease in the kidneys. He battled skin disease, chronic headaches, and insomnia in his scholasticate formation. He was sent to Milan for studies, but after some time he was on his way back to Rome because of his health. His death was caused by an infection from a victim of a plague. They say his virtue was purity yet Aloysius Gonzaga’s health problems is an antithesis to the etymology of purity, which is the word clean.
I am pretty sure that Aloysius Gonzaga worried. I am even led to believe that he led a worrisome life, a plagued life. He endured not only health problems but even family problems, specifically a furious father who could not believe that his son of noble birth and status would choose to join a religious order that renounces any right to income from property or status in society. What was striking was his intense fidelity. Amidst the reality of worry and problems, he stuck it out with God.
This is the same fidelity I observed with my parents. I grew up seeing them argue and, at times, shout at each other. I lived long enough to see how each adapted to the other’s idiosyncrasies and irritants. I saw them struggle with budgets, even debts. But they stuck it out with each other. Just like Aloysius Gonzaga.
Pondering on the reality of fidelity in the life of Aloysius Gonzaga and the marriage of my parents, the word surrender came to mind. Surrender is not so much giving up but rather accepting the reality of things, of the situation, of the variables. When I looked at myself, it was clear that I grapple with control—in wanting and trying to tip the outcome in my favor. I found it difficult to accept unfavorable outcomes. Another important aspect of surrender came into mind. Inherent in surrender is the experience—I have to go through it. When I looked at myself again, it was clear that I grapple with fear—fear of failure, of embarrassment, of pain. The reality of fear—of going through unexpected and even, unfair outcomes—is palpable.
The Gospel’s answer is simple. Christ teaches the crowd to not worry—to trust God. Yet, how many times have I heard this invitation and still the reality of fear and of control—the reality of worry—seemed more powerful than God. Yet here lies the rub. Christ used words such as feed and clothed to sketch God’s cura personalis (personal care). Christ was telling the crowd how we have a God that not only cares, but cares for us personally, who knows us more than we know ourselves, thereby putting Him in the position to best care for us. He tirelessy offers and makes His covenant with His beloved despite the rejections and abandonment even from the ones He holds dear. This is the God whom Aloysius Gonzaga was intensely loyal and faithful to. This is the image of God that my parents saw in their marriage. This is the God whom I am being called to surrender to again and again and again.
The tough invitation for me is to remember all these especially in my experiences of worry. The call grounds itself in the spirituality of the meditation on Two Standards: to choose to hold on to the reality of my relationship, my loyalty and faith, my fidelity to God over the seemingly powerful reality of worry. The grace of choosing to surrender—to accept and go through life with complete loyalty and faith to God—is what I needed to beg for; the same grace that prevailed in the life of St. Aloysius Gonzaga and in the enduring marriage of my parents.